Kelly Tenzek


Kelly Tenzek.

Kelly Tenzek


Kelly Tenzek


Scholarly Interests

Difficult dialogues, End-of-life, health, interpersonal, and community education and empowerment


Kelly E. Tenzek, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) focuses on difficult dialogues in health and interpersonal contexts, primarily end-of-life communication. She is a qualitative scholar whose work strives to engage local community members, whether that be through hospice, senior centers, or assisted living facilities. Her research lab, Qualitative research understanding-Qualitative method inquiry (QRU-QMI), is very active in research centered on health and aging in a variety of contexts.   Dr. Tenzek serves on the graduate admissions committee and is the Program Planner for the Communication and Aging division at the National Communication Association. She has published in leading journals for thanatology Omega Journal of Death and Dying, and Death Studies.

Educational Background

  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Recent Courses

  • COM 199 End-of-life communication
  • COM 199: Health communication
  • COM 205: Research Methods, Singapore Institute of Management
  • COM 225: Interpersonal communication
  • COM 317: Business and professional communication
  • COM 380: Health Communication* service-learning project
  • COM 500: Proseminar in Communication
  • COM 627: Grounded Theory, cross listed with School of Nursing
  • COM 677: Special topics End-of-life communication 

Current Research

  • This is Us- this collaborative project in the created an inductive coding scheme centered on health issues that are present in the popular television family drama This is Us. This allowed us to conduct multiple qualitative content analyses on topics such as mental health, end-of-life, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Team Alice collaboration- The research is this area focuses on medication safety and patient empowerment for older adults. Projects included in this area include a community collaboration with Heathwood Assisted Living Facility using videos as a platform for education for residents, caregivers, and staff. We are also working on a medication safety curriculum for local community members who are part of senior centers.
  • EOL Theory- I am working on developing a communication based theory for end-of-life communication. This was started in 2017 with the creation of the opportunity model for presence during the end of life process (OMP). Currently, I am working on developing theoretically based practical tools for clinicians, scholars, and community members to use as well. 

Selected Publications

Mackenzie, L. & Tenzek, K. E. (Forthcoming). Marines’ Reflections on End-of-Life Communication: Connecting Resilience and Difficult Dialogue. International Journal of Collaborative-Dialogic Practices.

Scheinfeld, E., Tenzek, K. E., Cherry, J. (2023). Survivors’ perspectives on saying goodbye: Implications for a good death and grieving process. Death Studies.

Tenzek K. E., Lattimer, T. A., Heneveld, K., Lapan, E., Neurohr, M., & Gillis, S. (2023). Mediated depictions of mental health, chronic care, and literacy: A narrative analysis of Randall’s mental health journey in the television series, This is Us. Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Tenzek, K. E., Grant, P. C., Depner, R. M., Levy, K., & Byrwa, D. J. (2022). Clinician communication in hospice: Constructions of reality throughout the end-of-Life process. Omega (Amityville, N.Y. Online).

Tenzek, K. E. & Depner, R. M. (2017). Still searching: A meta-synthesis of a good death from the family perspective. Special issue family communication at the end-of-life. Behavioral Sciences, 7.